I was recently in London for two non-consecutive nights as a bookend to a trip to Scotland, and saw this as a perfect opportunity to try two chain-standard hotels that seemed like they could be a cut above the rest.
Both Ben and Tiffany have both expressed their frustration with the London hotel market (or, at least, the hotel market for points-friendly chains), and on the surface, looking at rates for the dates I needed, I initially shared the frustration. London hotels are expensive. Even booking through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts wouldn’t have offered me anywhere close to a value proposition.
It’s true that there’s no technical luxury flagship brand for any of the big-three hotel chains — no St. Regis, no Ritz-Carlton, no Waldorf-Astoria, and no Park Hyatt — so the loyalty chain choices aren’t as obvious.
However, with some sleuthing on TripAdvisor, I discovered there were three chain hotels that clearly stood above the rest — (1) the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, which is on Portman Square (in the nether region between Mayfair, Marble Arch and Marylebone, but essentially a block from Oxford Street); (2) the Conrad, which is in St. James’s, closer to Westminster; and (3) the Marriott Park Lane, just on the other side of Oxford Street from the Hyatt and squarely in Mayfair. (I’ve stayed at the Andaz Liverpool Street before and found it just okay, but I ruled it out because I wanted to be nearer to Heathrow Airport.)
I ruled out the Conrad since I didn’t find its location to be particularly useful for my needs, but instead I booked a Club-level room at the Hyatt Regency for 33,000 Gold Passport — ugh, er, World of Hyatt — points, and I booked a standard room at the Marriott London Park Lane for 45,000 Marriott Rewards points.
For this review, I’ll focus on the Hyatt Regency, and tomorrow I’ll review the Marriott Park Lane. Both options are well above the brand standard for a regular “Hyatt Regency” or a “Marriott.” One of them simply wowed me.
The Hyatt Regency London — The Churchill (let’s just agree to call it the Hyatt Regency Churchill) is conveniently located on Portman Square, about a 5-minute Uber ride from Paddington Station, the terminus of the Heathrow Express. I was at the hotel well within an hour of landing, which, for London, is impressive.
The building is a fairly unsplendid midcentury brick block, although it’s been recently renovated following a small gas explosion in 2014. The lobby is small but attractive, although since I had booked a Regency Club level room, I took the elevators straight to the 8th floor (Club level) for check-in.
The check-in process was easy enough, and I was assigned a room just down the hall on the 8th floor. However, the room was not what I expected based on photographs of the hotel’s renovation. In fact, the Club level room was tiny, unrenovated (or at least, unrefreshed based on photos of the hotel decor) and had a view directly on to a construction site.
I returned to the desk and asked if my Platinum — er, Discoverist — status was able to earn me an upgrade to a bit bigger of a room, or at least one with more of a view. The agent was able to re-assign me to a room on the fourth floor, albeit with continued access to the Regency Club given my room key.
My guestroom on the fourth floor was leagues better than the Club level room initially assigned to me, and I was actually a bit confused that the Club level rooms hadn’t been given the same refresh. My room overlooked Portman Square and was bright.
The room was smartly designed and decorated, with the guestrooms and hallways of the newly refreshed portions of the hotel being nods to Winston Churchill, the hotel’s namesake. Carpets were gray herringbone and the walls were light gray and ever-so-subtly “masculine” without being overtly so.
The furniture in the room had nods to the art deco vibe of the immediately surrounding neighborhood, and the bed felt — and was — plush.
The artwork in the room was thoughtful and playful, without being whimsical in the Andaz or W sense. This was in stark contrast to my un-renovated 8th floor room, which had bare walls.
The bathroom was on the smaller side, but smartly laid out, and felt modern and clean. The room was equipped with Pharmacopia toiletries, which seem to be standard for the upper tier of Hyatt Regency properties (the Hyatt Regency Kyoto has them, for instance), although Regency Club rooms are provided with Molton Brown amenities, which are a personal favorite.
I called down and had Molton Brown toiletries delivered — they brought me an entire sack full of them! I always love excess amenities, although it did seem a bit disorganized that they brought them in what looked like a plastic trash bag.
Perhaps my favorite part of the bathroom was the Toto Japanese-style toilet, which I love.
The room looked directly out onto Portman Square, and — given that it was a warm, sunny day in London — it felt quite bright and airy.
Regency Club Lounge
The Regency Club at the Hyatt Regency Churchill is actually comprised of two separate lounges flanking the reception and check-in area; from the elevator bank to the right is the “family” lounge, and to the left is the adults-only lounge. Because it was a bank holiday in Britain, and spring break for kids everywhere, the family lounge was understandably more crowded, so I visited the adults lounge — in the evening, for a quick look, and the following morning for breakfast.
The lounge was spacious and decorated in warm gray tones consistent with the public spaces elsewhere in the hotel. There was a library wall of magazines, which I appreciated.
Food and beverages were set off in a small room to the side of the “library” area, which, at breakfast, got congested fairly quickly. In the evenings, a nice spread of cheeses, hors d’ouevres, and desserts was set up, along with self-serve wine and liquor. Beer, soft drinks and soda are in the refrigerators below. (And the beer stays in the fridges so long as the lounge is open.)
In the evening, there was maybe enough food between chips and salsa, cheeses, meats and such to cobble together a dinner, in a pinch, although with so many terrific cafes and restaurants just out the door, eating in the lounge would seem like a waste.
At breakfast the following morning, the lounge was far more crowded, although I still found it easy enough to grab a table. I wouldn’t say the breakfast spread was impressive, though there was the usual assortment of savory breakfast breads, pastries and smoked salmon. Other than hard boiled eggs, the one egg option was pre-assembled eggs benedict, which were served tepid and rubbery.
Overall, I found the lounge to be quiet, tastefully decorated, and comfortable. I was happy to put together a little breakfast in the morning, but none of the food selections were especially satisfying. Still, it was better than almost any lounge at a domestic Hyatt.
The Hyatt Regency in London is well-located on Portman Square, just off of busy Oxford Street and an easy walk to quietly hip Marylebone. Better still, it was less than a five-minute Uber ride from Paddington Station, where the Heathrow Express terminates. It’s actually even quite walkable to Paddington, though maybe a bit less so with luggage. Certainly, London is a multi-nodal city so if your business brings you to the City’s financial district, or if you’re keen to shop in Knightsbridge and Chelsea and sightsee at the museums in South Kensington, or if you’re a trendsetter focused on the latest goings-on in Shoreditch or Spitalfields, the location at the edge of Mayfair and Paddington and Marylebone isn’t especially convenient. However, for most tourists, the easy access to Hyde Park, Soho and the West End is ideal.
Service at the Hyatt Regency was prompt, efficient and for the most part quite cordial, although I wouldn’t necessarily describe the service as “warm.” It seems like the exact sort of service you’d expect and want from a higher end business hotel, and most of my interactions were with employees at the Regency Club, who were terrific. I didn’t have much occasion to interact with employees in the lobby or in the hotel restaurant, but the doormen were friendly and quite helpful with directions.
Hyatt Regency Churchill Bottom Line
This is a solid hotel, especially for a Hyatt Regency. It certainly exceeded my expectations for a Regency-branded property, and I thought the location and service levels were absolutely above par. I did find it strange that the Regency Club-level room, at 33,000 points a night, was actually quite a bit dowdier and less refreshed than the non-Club level room I’d transferred to, which would have been, by comparison, 25,000 points a night. The hotel did not strike me as under renovation, so there must have been a conscious choice on the hotel’s part to differentiate the decor between the Club level and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the difference was a difference of quality, and while the Club level was unimpressive, I have to give Hyatt credit that the regular rooms were downright luxurious.
Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again, particularly since it was a comparative bargain using World of Hyatt points. That said, at paid rates I might consider more boutique options with a bit more charm and character, since the Hyatt was, at the end of the day, very much reflective of a chain hotel, albeit a very, very nice one. And while it’s a terrific Hyatt in an expensive European city, I wouldn’t use it for two free nights on a Hyatt Credit Card when there are Park Hyatts in Paris, Milan, and Vienna — among other places — that represent much better splurges.